The Under 30 Food Face-Off – Local Flavors Dominate, Duck & Goat Win the Night


Chicken-liver reuben sandwich, Apple pie truffles! Huitlacoche hush puppies! They all sound so yum! And they were just 3 of the 9 entries in the 2nd annual Under 30 Food Festival and competition. The event was held on Sunday evening at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center and included 9 chefs who have been featured in the Forbes Under 30 list in the past. Each of the dishes that were entered into the competition were worthy of the commendation that they got. However, only two managed to win and the lucky winners were *drum roll*: the winner of the audience vote was the duck-confit grilled cheese & tomato soup by Christopher Coombs, and the winner of the Judges’ choice for the evening was the goat dumpling piri piri with micro cilantro by Joseph ‘JJ’ Johnson.

JJ Blows Everyone Away

Randall Lane, Forbes editor, was full of praise for JJ, and said that he took a simple dish like dumplings and elevated it to a whole new level that simply blew our minds. He also called Coombs’ grilled cheese as an amped up comfort food and people simply loved it to bits. Both dishes are currently not on the menus of Coombs or Johnsons’ restaurants, since like most chefs in the cook-off, they wanted to provide something unique and fresh. This really tested their skill and palate, since they had to balance their own tastes and then calculate what the crowd really wanted.

JJ Blows

Joseph ‘JJ’ Johnson’s winning dish; Goat dumpling piri piri with micro cilantro

The result was a winning combination and it was exactly what they wanted, since they both managed to conjure up 2 remarkable and noteworthy dishes. People simply devoured their food and wanted more!

Johnson is well known for his oxtail dumpling, but this time decided to replace the oxtail with goat. He explained that he wanted to create an exclusive dish with a sense of the Afro-Asian flavors, which is part of his influence at his restaurant ‘The Cecil’. Coombs played it smart and carefully noted the results at the inaugural Under 30 Summit and therefore created a plate that would be impossible to resist.

A tough task for the judges

The judges said that choosing one dish that was above the rest was an impossible task, but they must declare a winner, and accepted the challenge. The competition is designed to find the best young chef in America, but it has brought forward the best 9 young chefs in America. The judges were so impressed by the cooking skills, palate and dishes that the young chefs managed to conjure up that it was extremely tough to make a decision.

The judges declared that all the competing plates had some really good flavors and textures and they had cultural influences from all over the world. There were French, Cuban, Mexican, Japanese, African, and Southeast Asian cuisines on display and all the dishes had distinct approaches that made them standout from the rest.

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